Jumuah lecture on Friday 29 October 2021 (22 Rabiul Auwal 1443)
Maulana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid
Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) says in verse 58 of Surah Nisaa’ (chapter 4 of the Holy Quran):
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَنْ تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ نِعِمَّا يَعِظُكُمْ بِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا
Surely Allah commands you to make over trusts to their owners and that when you judge between people you judge with justice; surely Allah admonishes you with what is excellent; surely Allah is Seeing, Hearing.
Almighty Allah (SWT) draws our attention to two principal commands in this verse:
1. Amaanat – Trustworthiness
2. Adl – Justice
These two principles are the foundation of our message of Islam to the people. I have mentioned numerous times before, that Islam did not come to only prepare us for the Hereafter. Yes, that is the focus of the message of Islam, but Islam also has crucial messages for this world we live in ie. before death. This message pertaining to our current transient life is based upon these two principles (Amaanat and Adl).
Almighty Allah (SWT) commands us in this verse to be trustworthy, and to hand over the trust to its real owners, to those who are worthy of this trust. And whenever we govern and judge amongst the people, we do so based upon justice.
AMAANAT: TRUSTWORTHINESS BEYOND MATERIAL RESPONSIBILITY
When we speak about Amaanat – trust or trustworthiness – our minds often go towards something material. An example is when someone has given you money or property to hold onto for handover to someone else or for return at a later stage, and trustworthiness is when this integrity and honesty is not compromised during the period you are entrusted, and the promise is fulfilled as expected.
So, this is our understanding of trustworthiness in the material sense. On the other hand, our religious scholars and commentators of the Holy Quran conclude that Amaanat is much more comprehensive than simply referring to the material context. They explain that it includes spiritual and social assets as well!
This means that Amaanat can be a tangible asset you are entrusted with, or it can be a social responsibility. At this point, it is my privilege to draw reference to highly regarded educators we have in our midst, as education is a trust placed in the hands of educators to groom the next generation. In this context, trustworthiness means to do justice to your job and provide good quality education to the young people. This is the trust placed in educators.
Similarly, when we speak about governance, we understand that leadership is indeed a divine trust placed in the hands of the people entrusted with leadership.
We can now understand the point about trust having a much broader meaning than simply the material context. Hence, worth reminding ourselves about this since it is election weekend, because voting is also a trust in our hands!
AMAANAT: JOINT RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MASSES AND THOSE IN PUBLIC OFFICE
We note from the above verse, that it is the command of Almighty Allah (SWT) to deliver the trust to those who are worthy of this trust! We should remember this when voting on Monday, that it is a trust (Amaanat) on both sides. On the one side, we are placing our trust in a candidate, and on the other side, the one who receives our vote has a trust to fulfil. The trust is therefore on both sides, and not one-sided as we often think it is.
If we have a problem today with the excessively corrupt, incapable and destructive leadership of our country, which does not deliver, then they are indeed responsible and clearly not trustworthy of the trust they have been entrusted with.
Having said that, we are also responsible, as we are the ones who place our trust in those running for leadership positions. So then, the question is whether we asked ourselves if the party or individual is really capable, before voting for them?
Some people even think that we do not need to vote because of this situation of hopelessness, as it does not matter who we vote for, since they are all incapable. This view is certainly true to a great extent, because the corruption in our society is so widespread, unfortunately, such that it is extremely difficult to find suitable candidates to hold public office.
That being said, abstaining from voting is not the solution either, as they will still come into power this way, and have access to huge budgets. Hence, we as Muslims and believers of this Amaanat need to really be sensitive about it and place it in the hands of those who are truly worthy of being entrusted.
Our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) explains this crucial importance, when he says that we should not look at someone’s prolonged acts of worship (Ibadah), as it more often than not becomes a habit for them, to the point where it will be uncomfortable for them when they leave it. Instead, we should evaluate them based on their level of truthfulness when they speak and their trustworthiness.
These are the criteria for finding the right person for leadership.
THE PRESTIGIOUS AMAANAT OF THE KEY TO THE KA’BAH
This verse was revealed when our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) entered Mecca and took over the key to the Ka’bah from Uthman ibn Talha, who also later became one of his companions. Uthman ibn Talha was from the tribe of Bani Shayba, who were the keyholders of the Ka’bah, historically before Islam and until today.
Rasulullah (SAWA) commanded Uthman ibn Talha to remove the idols from the Ka’bah and clean it from such impurities.
During this sequence of events, one of the cousins of Rasulullah (SAWA) pitched to be the custodian of the key to the Ka’bah, due to its prestigious responsibility. Rasulullah (SAWA) did not give this much attention, and instead handed the key back to Uthman ibn Talha after he cleared the idols from the Ka’bah.
This is the background to the revelation of the above verse cited from Surah Nisaa’.
What we learn from this episode is that family is not a consideration at all, as he did not give the request of his family member attention, but rather bestowed this responsibility of the key to the Ka’bah back with Uthman ibn Talha, as he felt this person was the most suitable for the job.
Hence, this verse 58 from Surah Nisaa’ clearly tells us that we should remember this principle when we go to vote. Our vote should not be based on ethnic affiliation or other prejudices. Instead, we should place our trust in the hands of those who are really trustworthy.
Interestingly, the above verse speaks about Amaanat and then also speaks about justice (adl). One of the great commentators of the Holy Quran also made an interesting point, stating that justice is mentioned after Amaanat in this verse. The big question is why? And from our analysis we can safely conclude that justice is only possible when the Amaanat is placed in its rightful hands!
KHUTBAH 214 OF NAHJUL BALAGHA: RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
We can only expect justice after fulfilling our responsibility of entrusting the correct people in society with leadership.
On this point, I wish to draw reference to a beautiful extract from Khutbah 214 of Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), where Amir al-Mu’mineen Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) speaks about rights. I want to especially highlight this in line with our topic of discussion, namely, our role in governance. The fact of the matter is that we cannot blame leadership if we do not play our role.
In this particular sermon, Imam Ali (a.s) addresses rights and obligations together. We always talk about rights, but hardly address obligations. The reality is that we cannot have rights without obligations!
This is the relationship which Imam Ali (a.s) explains here, saying that “from the greatest of those rights which Almighty Allah (SWT) made compulsory, is the right of the ruler over the ruled, and the right of the ruled masses over the ruler, and for everyone over everyone ie. we are all leaders, and we are all subjects at the same time, making us all responsible.”
Imam Ali (a.s) goes further to explain in this Khutbah 214 that “this is an obligation which Almighty Allah (SWT) has placed on each other and made it the basis of their mutual affection!” This means that the relationship regarding the rights of people over the ruler, and the rights of the ruler over the people is the basis of affection and the honour for their religion.
Moral of the story is that if this relationship is properly established, then the rights of the people will be honoured.
Let me conclude this first khutbah by another reference to this Khutbah 214, where Imam Ali (a.s) says that “the ruled cannot prosper until the rulers are sound, while the rulers cannot be sound unless the ruled are steadfast.” This means that we are considered partners in the corruption of the rulers, as the rulers cannot be reformed if the public is not morally upright with perseverance and steadfastness.
Imam Ali (a.s) concludes by stating that “the religion of Islam is honourable when this relationship of rights and obligations are balanced between the ruler and the ruled. This is where justice is established and the Prophetic Sunnah gains currency and prominence in society.”
With these principled values, I wish to remind you for Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT) ie. God-consciousness in all aspects of our life, including our national and social responsibility which we need to perform at the voting stations.
SECOND KHUTBAH – COP26 SUMMIT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
I remind you all once again about Taqwa of Almighty Allah (SWT), and it is the demand of Taqwa to deliver the trust to its worthy and deserving people. This is the Quranic criteria which defines our role and contribution in governance, in service delivery in our society, and the establishment of justice in our society.
Another very, very great Amaanat placed in our hands by Almighty Allah (SWT) is the environment and nature in which we are inhabitants. Yes, the mother earth in which we enjoy the great natural resources, benefits and blessings of Almighty Allah (SWT).
How we treat nature, the environment and the resources again come back to the concept of Amaanat which Almighty Allah (SWT) has entrusted us with.
We are all aware of COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, Scotland from 31 October – 12 November, where world leaders are gathered to address environmental challenges and climate changes.
Even today’s news from United Nations analysis says that we are moving very quickly in the direction of destroying this world, this sacred Amaanat of Almighty Allah (SWT) bestowed on us. The crux of the issue keeps coming back to the so-called superpowers who want to control the world, and their leading role in destroying this natural environment, leaving us seriously reflect on what we are leaving behind for future generations.
We will address these environmental challenges and climate change from the Islamic analysis in a future Jumuah Khutbah, Insha Allah.